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Enhanced Processing of Emotional Gist in Peripheral Vision

  • Aída Gutiérrez (a1), Lauri Nummenmaa (a2) and Manuel G. Calvo (a1)

Emotional (pleasant or unpleasant) and neutral scenes were presented foveally (at fixation) or peripherally (5.2° away from fixation) as primes for 150 ms. The prime was followed by a mask and a centrally presented probe scene for recognition. The probe was either identical in specific content (i.e., same people and objects) to the prime, or it was related to the prime in general content and affective valence. The probe was always different from the prime in color, size, and spatial orientation. Results showed an interaction between prime location and emotional valence for the recognition hit rate, but also for the false alarm rate and correct rejection times. There were no differences as a function of emotional valence in the foveal display condition. In contrast, in the peripheral display condition both hit and false alarm rates were higher and correct rejection times were longer for emotional than for neutral scenes. It is concluded that emotional gist, or a coarse affective impression, is extracted from emotional scenes in peripheral vision, which then leads to confuse them with others of related affective valence. The underlying neurophysiological mechanisms are discussed. An alternative explanation based on the physical characteristics of the scene images was ruled out.

En un paradigma de reconocimiento se presentaron fotografías-estímulo (prime) de escenas emocionales y neutras durante 150 ms cada una, bien fovealmente (en el centro de fijación visual) o periféricamente (a 5.2° de separación), seguidas por una máscara y una fotografía de prueba (probe). La fotografía prime y la probe podían ser idénticas en contenido específico (las mismas personas y objetos) o únicamente relacionadas en su contenido general y valencia emocional (agradables, desagradables, o neutras). Los resultados mostraron un efecto interactivo de la ubicación espacial y la valencia emocional sobre la tasa de aciertos, pero también la de falsas alarmas y el tiempo de rechazos correctos: No hubo diferencias en estas variables en función de la valencia emocional en la ubicación foveal; en cambio, en la periférica, tanto los aciertos como las falsas alarmas fueron más frecuentes, y el tiempo de los rechazos correctos fue más lento, para las escenas de contenido emocional que las neutras. Los autores concluyen que las personas obtienen una impresión genérica de la valencia afectiva de los estímulos pictóricos en visión periférica, que lleva a confundir las escenas con otras de similar valencia afectiva. Se examinan los mecanismos neurofisiológicos involucrados en este efecto de percepción emocional periférica. Se rechaza la hipótesis de que los efectos del contenido emocional de las imágenes sean debidos a diferencias en las propiedades físicas.

Corresponding author
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Manuel G. Calvo. Department of Cognitive Psychology, Universidad de La Laguna. 38205 Tenerife (Spain). E-mail:
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The Spanish Journal of Psychology
  • ISSN: 1138-7416
  • EISSN: 1988-2904
  • URL: /core/journals/spanish-journal-of-psychology
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